Sunday, May 9, 2010
The Next Act
Friday night. Central Park Boathouse. A surprise party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of my friend Marla’s image consulting business. It was a gorgeous evening and the noisy, elegant dinner, preceded by cocktails and mingling, befitted the occasion. In fact, except for the shortage of while lilies, it was exactly the kind of party Marla herself would have thrown.
Our host for the evening, her beau Barry, spoke of what an achievement it was for anyone to be so successful for so long. Especially in New York—and a woman at that. While I agree completely with the first two-thirds of that statement, I think that being a woman actually stacks the deck in her favor.
I remember having lunch with Marla when she hatched the idea and thinking that, if anyone could pull it off it, it would be her. She’s smart, organized, has a great head for business, and had been very successful working in both the buying and selling sides of the fashion business. She had reached a point where she was tired of working for other people, and after careful thought had come up with a logical next step in her career.
Exactly the sort of thing women do all the time!
That’s right. We’re the masters of reinvention. Whether it’s shifting gears from full-time career woman to full-time mom, from unemployed to self-employed, from single to married to single again, women are in the business of creating and recreating their lives. As one woman at Marla’s party put it, we are the flexible sex. The ones who can turn on a dime. We can be racing to meet a deadline at work, stop to take a call from our daughter or best friend, help with a math problem or dating crisis, and return to that work project with barely a "Where was I?"
Women are the ones who manage. We make do. We make ends meet. We make lemonade from lemons. And we’re successful because we refuse to give up. Every woman in my change management group is in the process of transitioning from focusing on others to taking better care of herself. Half of the women I met at the Vermont retreat were in the process of changing jobs, changing locations, or figuring out how to turn something they're good at into a moneymaking venture. What we all share is resourcefulness. Inventiveness. And the unwavering belief that there is more where that came from.
Just because we can do it doesn’t mean that transformation is easy. Like the humans in the movie “Avatar” who traveled from one world to the next, we struggle to adjust, often wrestling with a laundry list of issues: from fear to loneliness, from lack of financial resources to lack of confidence. But we never lack the support of good friends. Or the camaraderie of other women who are either in the same boat—or have recently paddled down the same river.
Three of the smartest and most talented women I know are in search of new employment. Two of them were laid off in the past month, and the third shuttered her business. None of them is entirely sure what they want to do, but they are fully dedicated to figuring out their “next act” (as one of the three—my friend Robynn—put it.)
I was in exactly the same place three years ago, about to lose my job and sure only of what I did not want in my future. With help from two wise women and an assist from my son Jake (who convinced me to take the leap to Monster.com), I achieved my goal of leaving a Manhattan commute behind and landing a great job a stone’s throw from my house. This change began a process that, at the moment, seems never-ending. As if I tipped the first domino and sent dozens of others toppling in a line that snakes into my future. Each one that slaps the floor is another chance to move forward. To dream, to learn, to grow. To lead a more genuine life.
To do what women do so well: discover, realize—or create—our next act.